Ukishima Maru

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Ukishima Maru
Launched: March 1937
Fate: Sank 24 August 1945
General characteristics
Tonnage: 4,731 GRT

Ukishima Maru was a Japanese naval transport vessel. She was originally built as a passenger ship in March 1937. During World War II, she served as a naval vessel after receiving heavy armament. She measured 4,731 gross register tons.

The Ukishima Maru incident[edit]

On 22 August 1945, Ukishima Maru was carrying 3,725 Korean labourers and their families from a military facility in the Aomori prefecture, headed towards the Korean port of Busan. On the 24th, the ship entered the port of Maizuru, where the ship struck an American naval mine, exploded and sank, killing 524 Koreans and 25 Japanese on board, according to Japanese government figures. However, the actual numbers of passengers and victims are unknown. The Japanese government officially reported that the American sea mine was the cause of the explosion.

The Korean view[edit]

Koreans, both the South and the North, view this incident as a deliberate Japanese war crime committed by the Japanese government of the time to conceal information about the Japanese military base. This view was illustrated in the 2001 North Korean film Souls Protest.

Eighty South Koreans, survivors and relatives of the victims of the incident, have filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government, seeking some ¥8 billion in compensation, an official apology, and the remains of the victims that are kept in a shrine in Japan.

The Japanese Court Ruling[edit]

On 27 August 2001 the Kyoto District Court ordered the Japanese government to pay ¥45 million to 15 South Koreans, who are survivors and the relatives of the victims of the incident. The court ruled that the Japanese government had failed in its duty to transport passengers safely as a legal relation was established between the government and the passengers at that time.

The court rejected, however, claims of the plaintiffs demanding official apologies and return of the remains of the victims.

The court also rejected claims of 65 plaintiffs on the ground that their relationship with the victims could not be established.

In 2003, the High Court of Osaka Japan rejected the order of the Kyoto District Court and in November 2004 the Superior court finally rejected the case.